TUF 18's Jessamyn Duke: Episode 2 Blog

Riley KontekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 11, 2013


Note: All quotes and material were obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report through one-on-one between Jessamyn Duke and Bleacher Report's Riley Kontek.


When Episode 2 starts, a whirlwind of activity has just taken place. I won my fight to get into the house, the team picks were made (I was on Team Rousey), the first fight was picked, and the stage was set for the first female quarterfinal between Julianna Pena and my teammate, Shayna Baszler.

Fight day concluded with our move into the house. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was literally the longest day of my life. We fought, did team picks, gathered all our belongings, piled in a van and went to the house. It was late, and it was crazy! People were scrambling and running around trying to eat, find rooms and settle in.

The rooming arrangements were all in odd numbers. I knew I wanted to room with Shayna because we were friends coming into the house. We found a room with three beds that we claimed, but then we saw Roxanne Modafferi and Jessica Rakoczy would have to sleep in a room with the guys that had five beds, so we traded and took that big room. The downside was there was one small bathroom between us five girls, but we made it work.

Oddly enough, it wasn't weird having a Team Tate member in our room (Roxanne). We all kind of knew each other before the show, and Roxy is very proper and formal, very Japanese (she lived in Japan previously). She was always polite and respectful to everyone. Plus, she's funny and easy to get along with, so she brought a great energy to our room.

It was like being at summer camp with all of your friends!

Once we staked claims to our rooms, we all realized we were starving. People converged on the kitchen and were tearing up the pantry, firing up the grill, using the oven and pretty much devouring everything. That carnage lasted a couple of hours because it had been such a long day. It was satisfying, but it wasn't pretty!

Everyone wants to hear how it went down with eight men living under the same roof with women. I hope I don't disappoint the drama lovers out there, but the guys were very respectful and treated us like teammates, which I honestly expected.

People think women aren't used to training with guys, but the fact is that's what we encounter every day when training at our own gyms. Usually there aren't more than a few women at most gyms, so you train with whoever is there. They have to respect us because they see how hard we work, and they are typically protective of us, so it's not like they look at us like girls they want to hook up with.

As you saw, Anthony Gutierrez's commentary was shown about several women on the show, including me. I'm sure some people took him seriously, but it really wasn't. He was trying to be playful and charming with us. Even so, it quickly got kind of obnoxious and irritating. He was like a stray puppy yipping around.

It was cute at first, but once you've shown it some attention and it doesn't leave you alone, it gets annoying. What part of, "Seriously, this is not why we're here" don't you understand?

Tim Gorman was the exception to treating us like teammates as seen with his conversation with Sarah Moras, but I don't think it was meant to be offensive. He just had an ingrained moral standard. He didn't want to scrap with a woman. So what he was saying wasn't malicious; it just came from his personal conviction on the subject. I don't think he'd ever trained with a woman before the show, so I'm sure that contributed to why he acted that way. It was harmless.

It was unfortunate that Timmy had to leave after just a couple of days. I'm not sure what the situation was because he wasn't on my team, but from what I heard he came into his elimination fight with a hamstring injury and fought on it. I believe he actually aggravated it worse in the fight, which is why he was sent home. Again, I'm not completely sure, but that's what I heard.

Whatever the reason, it was devastating when we heard he had to leave. It was almost like someone had died when the reality set in that he was really going home. Everyone's mood was somber. Timmy has a large personality, and we were all sad because it seemed so cruel that he had to leave after he fought his ass off to get into the house.

It was a stark reminder that it can be over just like that. Timmy deserved to be there and would have fought on the injury regardless, but he had to go home for something out of his control.

We all missed Timmy. The first or second night, he was up at like 3 a.m., sitting in the kitchen by himself with a quilt wrapped around him, eating pancakes with syrup and Captain Crunch. He was really loud, but he was just super excited to be there.

I actually had to go out and ask him to take it down a notch because he was being so loud, and he was immediately super apologetic. He just had a big personality. The house was quieter without him there, but it also wasn't nearly as entertaining.

This episode was really the first time people got a good look at Ronda interacting with our team and Miesha's team. People are going to view Ronda how they are going to view her, but she was not out of line when she was running Miesha's team out of the gym.

We had set practice times that were two hours. You can't come in early, and you can't train at the same time as the other team. So if Team Tate is lingering around the gym, we are losing out on training time.

So it might have ticked people off, but Ronda took her role as coach seriously and made sure we had the gym during our time. Plus, she was respectful of Team Tate's time by not going in early or staying late.

When it came fight time, you could tell the house was pretty much leaning toward Shayna over Julianna. Even Julianna's teammates were confident Shayna would win.

At the weigh-ins, Shayna showed her character when she slipped the queen of spades card in Julianna's sports bra. She always did things like that. She's not being disrespectful, it's just her personality and it's endeared her to a lot of fans. I mean, I have seen her pull out a light saber during weigh-ins before!

She's just an entertaining person and was demonstrating some of her trademark showmanship.

I do think Shayna came into this fight overconfident, but it wasn't unjustified. She was the best girl in the house with a ton of experience. However, she was also confident that Julianna couldn't do anything to her, so when the fight started and she got hit, I think it shocked her.

Before the fight started, you could tell Julianna was scared. So when Shayna got cracked with a punch, Shayna immediately took her down and dominated her on the mat. She actually got Julianna in a spladle, which is a really difficult wrestling move to get. She let her go, which in retrospect, she knew should have finished her there.

The first round was definitely a 10-9 round for Shayna.

When the second round began, I think Julianna knew she needed to ramp thing up if she didn't want to lose the fight, and she came out hard. Shayna just didn't kick it into fifth gear like she needed to.

Julianna obviously caught Shayna with a rear-naked choke, but I think 99 out of 100 times, Shayna would win the same fight. She had a great weight cut and looked fantastic, but a huge part of this game is mental, and nothing is ever a guarantee in MMA.

The better fighter doesn't always win. Julianna saw an opening and capitalized on it, and that's why she won.

I viewed Julianna the same after that fight as I viewed her going into it. There were no chumps in this house, but she was a girl whom I would want to fight somewhere down the road in this competition. I have seen her fight before, I have fought one of her teammates before (Elizabeth Phillips), and I thought it would be a good fight for me.

She didn't do anything differently in this fight than she does in any other of her fights. She just caught Shayna in a lull and took advantage.

Shayna knew it was a rookie mistake. Julianna was a hungry fighter who was ready to take advantage of an error. Shayna knew she should have won, and that's why it hurt so much.

Shayna is one of my idols and heroes in the sport. It hurt to see her lose, but it didn't make me lose faith in her as a fighter. I am a "Queen of Spades" fan because of the type of fighter she is and what she brings to the cage every time.

She had an off day and lapse in focus, but that's the name of the game. The general populace has no idea what the fighters go through to try and peak at fight time. We have weeks of preparation to try and be perfect for 15 minutes. If you falter for even a second, the fight can be over, and that's what happened to Shayna.

Ronda was obviously just as upset as Shayna when she lost because she truly thought she had failed her. She made it very clear that she was there for us and wanted us to succeed. She took this job as a coach and mentor very seriously.

She is so competitive and enthusiastic, that's why she's a great champion. But that's why she was such a great coach and role model for us on the show. Ronda's a natural leader and has tremendous team-building powers. When Shayna lost, she brought the team right back together.

She gave us the mantra, "Every single second." She told us that in a fight, we have to fight to win every second. If there are 900 seconds in a fight, you can't concede a single one. It was powerful and motivating.

So, still somewhat shell shocked, we gathered for the next fight pick. Miesha picked Chris Beal, our top pick, against Chris Holdsworth. Beal had a hand injury, so I could see where the strategy came from. It's a competition, I get it. But I personally would have a hard time picking a guy because he is hurt. It feels so wrong and it brought up ugly feelings in me.

I was thinking, "I don't like that at all." I can't say I disagree with Ronda when she said, "That's some (expletive) ass (expletive)."

If Beal were 100 percent healthy, I don't think they would have made that pick. But with an injured hand, it might be a totally different fight, and they knew that would be their only chance to take him out. But, Beal isn't afraid to throw an injured hand and has dynamite in his punches...


**Tune in next week to hear Jessamyn's thoughts on the Ronda-Miesha tension that will continue to grow throughout the season, more in-depth stories from the house and her thoughts on the fight between Chris Beal and Chris Holdsworth, as well as the next female fight pick.